Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Spring Meditation from the Back Porch



The day has finally arrived - the morning when the sun quickly warms the back porch and yard, the morning with no wind or clouds, with birds of all kinds cavorting in the air and gliding on the pond just behind our house. I can hear the chickens, the roosters, rather, crowing out to the sun, so I know that I will have to stop writing to walk over to the coop and throw open the doors. They may not come out yet, as the dew is still heavy, but they revel in the rectangular patch of sunlight on the floor, as do I.

I walk back across the grass, reveling also in each individual drop of dew with its suggestion of a rainbow. Each is revealed to me separately in its own glory, which is odd, because I know this summer will birth many crystalline, dewy mornings. The individual drops will not leap out at me as they do today, when I have spent several long cold dark months anticipating this moment. We have looked forward to watching the show that now spreads before us on the back acreage.
Surrounded by this natural theater, I worry, though, that something may have happened to the Canada goose hen’s clutch of eggs. She has been off the island nest, eating grass in the yard at my feet, for such a long time, watched over by her mate. Just now they are both floating on the water, retreating to it when I walked over to the coop and back. Perhaps they have hatched and she is able to be away longer. I have been thinking it was time.

Yet something about their quietness makes me worry. She should be swimming purposefully back over to the island, as I have seen her do many times, but she is not. Did the eggs meet an untimely end, from the beaver John’s been tracking, or a mink or weasel? I would have heard the commotion in the night - I am not a deep sleeper and the fury of the pair’s fight would have been notably loud. Perhaps the eggs did not develop in the usual way, and this pair has realized it, through deep instinct.

I have been watching pairs of Canada geese nest here on our pond or nearby for nineteen years. They bring the goslings to our lawn to feed until they are developed enough to fly away. A clutch of eggs on the island has not gone bad on my watch. I begin to anthropomorphize these two large geese, imagining that the low tones he is making in her presence are his grief and mourning and his attempt to comfort his mate.

She has spent so many hours on that nest. She was there during the icy pelting rain last weekend, during the snow the week before that, the frigid nights over the past month. She left only for short sessions of bathing and feeding, staying there alone when the male left to feed at the neighboring pond. Hers was an investment no less important than the nine months I spent nurturing each of my sons before their births.

Nature can seem cruel but I am trying to remember to take nothing personally. I invoke that ancient Agreement from the Toltecs and let go of my own disappointment, let go of the mourning I imagine for this mated pair. The cycle of birth and death sometimes involves death at unexpected points. The local habitat may not have needed more geese at this juncture. The eggs may have contained damaged genetic material not capable of conjoining to form strong viable goslings. Better that the geese try again next year, perhaps.

As I process my momentary grief and move on, I notice that the imagined island tragedy has not interfered with Rex, the resident redwing blackbird, and his morning routines. He has been clicking and singing since before six, a soundtrack for my pre-dawn dreams. As I sit musing, he flits from the top of the tall sycamore to the post by the bird feeder, and from thence to visit various nests hidden in cattails or skeletons of Queen Anne’s Lace, scattered around other sectors of the pond’s stage. He has mated with many, spreading his DNA and potential progeny across our three acres. If anything happens to one nest, he has another and another. Despite their number, he will still worry any crow who gets too close.

John puts forth another theory about the mother goose’s absence from the nest, which is in full sun just now. Perhaps she feels safe leaving the eggs in the sun’s warmth. If they have hatched (which we cannot tell from here, even when I fetch the binoculars) the sun may also warm them enough.

Flycatchers dart in wide circles, drawing my eye from the nest and from my thoughts. Chickadees and nuthatches chatter in the nearby bare branches of the Norwegian maple, cracking sunflower seeds they import from the feeder. Loud crowing reaches us from many points in the yard, as the flock has been freed to seek seeds and bugs. A kingfisher arrives with loud pronouncements to look over the pond’s surface from the tip of the island’s tall spruce tree.

John shares his haiku, written at the other end of the porch while I contemplated spring and death:

See the tapestry --
Branches holding new blue sky --
architectural.